I think it’s safe to say that when I get into something, I get really into it. This is definitely the case with the Hamilton cast album. Since tickets are sold out until basically forever, I’ve been indulging my fixation by obsessively listening to the cast album and watching videos of the cast (ahem, #bam4ham).
Since music may be the only way–for right now, at least!–that many people will be able to experience this show, I think it’s worth saying that this is my favorite album in recent memory. A greater accomplishment is that this album tells the story of Alexander Hamilton, the first Secretary of Treasury, founder of the Fed, founder of the Coast Guard and the New York Post, essentially in rap and hip-hop. Lin-Manuel Miranda, the writer and actor who plays Hamilton, has always maintained that “it’s a hip hop story”, connecting Hamilton’s extensive writings and his meteoric rise to the topmost ranks of government from being a poor, orphaned immigrant to the similar stories of hip-hop and rap artists today.
You can hear the connections that Miranda has made in this musical to hip-hop and rap–in “Cabinet Battle # 2”, Thomas Jefferson raps, “And if you don’t know/now you know/Mr. President.” At the end of every verse in “Juicy”, Notorious B.I.G. says the same thing (of course, not including the “Mr. President”). There are a ton of little Easter eggs like this–I particularly love the Beyoncé references and one tiny reference to Brandy and Monica.
What’s even more enticing about this particular album is how purely Miranda displays his love of theater and Broadway. In addition to the rap references, he also includes several big references to musical theater–the most obvious being in “Say No To This” with the final line being, “Nobody needs to know.” In another, very different musical called “The Last Five Years,” the same line is being sung in a song about the same subject matter. There is a South Pacific reference in the album, too.
But what is perhaps the most charming thing about the cast album of Hamilton is the consistently inconsistent, always surprising lyricism and sheer musicality that transcends genre. It takes hip-hop convention and breaks it; it takes musical theater convention and breaks that, too.
You can listen to the entire cast album on Spotify, but I highly recommend purchasing it on iTunes.
Also, below is a video of Lin-Manuel Miranda rapping with President Obama in the Rose Garden.